Alan Dershowitz: The Advocate and Scholar as Jew; the Jew as Advocate and Scholar
25 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2008
Professor Dershowitz has melded his Jewish identity with his academic scholarship and public advocacy. First, he has described in great detail the Jewish stereotype and challenged it - not for its content but for its negativity. In Chutzpah, he defines the Jewish stereotype, as boldness, assertiveness, a willingness to demand what it due, to defy tradition, to challenge authority, to raise eyebrows. He also recognizes that detractors define these sets of characteristics as unmitigated gall, nerve, uppityness, arrogance, hypocritical demanding.
Second, Dershowitz's religious heritage has infused his perspective and commentary on a variety of legal topics from criminal justice to professional responsibility, to constitutional law. Because of his Jewish, and particularly religious Jewish upbringing, he uses Biblical and Jewish commentary as sources of analogy and reference.
Third, he has written and spoken about the difference between a faith-based perspective and a faith-biased one. The American tradition is based on many religious traditions and has prided itself on protection of religious and other minorities. It has also rejected the control by any religious group, even if it is the dominant majority.
Fourth, he has indicated his unwavering support for the State of Israel [but not all its politics and leaders] and opposition to those who are not just critical but perhaps have biased and, in some cases, even anti-Semitic attitudes. It is in American and not just American Jewish interest that we support and understand the only real democracy in the region.
And finally, Dershowitz has assumed the role of popular translator. He wants to explain his Jewishness, his religion and other religions in a manner that, though scholarly, can be understood by a broad audience. He can use his visibility and access to convey his perspectives and concerns. He believes, from his meetings, from his research, from the letters he receives - from Jews, non-Jews and even anti-Semites - that he knows what is on the mind and souls of many Jews of all ages and that he has a unique window into the mind of the anti-Semite.
Professor Dershowitz has his critics - both in the academy and in the quasi and not so quasi public sphere. But he brings credibility to his arguments because of his legal skills - careful scholarship, articulate expression and sometimes overwhelming persistency. You may disagree with him, but prepared to refute his logic, facts, and citations.
Keywords: religion, Jewish, scholarship
JEL Classification: K1, K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation